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WFAN vs. ESPN in The Big Apple. Take Two.

10-9-2012

In New York City, ESPN is now heard on 98.7. WFAN will soon be heard on 101.9. It was just a matter of time, and an available dial position, before WFAN made its move over to FM. Many in the industry have often wondered why its taken this long. It could just be that FM frequencies aren't that easy to find, or all that cheap, in the number one market. Soon that issue will be put to rest as the FM battle for younger sports listeners will begin between two sports juggernauts where the competition for listeners, and guests, will be fierce.

While WFAN and ESPN had been duking it out on the AM dial, that was more like a warm-up for what we can expect to see in January. In addition to simulcasting on the FM (at 101.9) CBS will be incorporating more of its new network elements into the station and WFAN morning show co-host Boomer Esiason will be integrated more with affiliates as part of the network. ESPN will continue to use the strength of its brand and a myriad of additional outlets where radio shows and hosts are cross-promoted and featured to maximize their visibility.

And this will be far from a friendly fight. In New York City, miniscule changes in the ratings translates into millions of dollars in revenue. Take a hint from longtime WFAN afternoon host Mike Francesa who explained the situation to Radio Ink in a recent cover story on WFAN. "ESPN bans all their people, including all of their TV network people from my program. That is something they started about 6 or 7 years ago. They are steadfast about it, even people that are some of my close friends, like Mike Breen who does the NBA finals and Jeff Van Gundy, both very close personal friends of mine who are forbidden from being on my show. That's how far ESPN has taken it."

And the battle for listeners goes much further than over-the-air as both companies try to super-serve more than the average sports fan who listens while driving from point A to point B. Both companies have very strong digital strategies. ESPN is well-known for embracing digital from apps to podcasts to incorporating social media into everything they do. And while others in the radio continue to waffle on digital, CBS has been a digital innovator.

The CBS Digital Department, led by Ezra Kucharz, is a formidable foe for ESPN, now called ESPN Audio. Last month at the Radio Show in Dallas Kucharz detailed just one of the apps that helps CBS drill down to serve fans that just can't get enough sports. The app is called CBS Local Audio Roadshow. Sports fans can tune into any CBS sports station in the country, see who's on, the topics being discussed and upcoming guests. They can also record their own ten second clip right from the app, called "Sound Off" and send it in to the show. CBS is creating many apps like the Roadshow app to address the specific desires of a crazed sports fan.

CBS was did not give a specific date when the WFAN simulcast will begin on 100.9 other than some time in late Fall.




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